Walking on a Dream (Back in London)

This past year has been amazing! I’ve done more this year than many people get to do in the course of their lifetime. I went to ten different shows – the musicals: Miss Saigon, The Lion King, Billy Elliot, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, Bend it like Beckham, Mamma Mia, Guys & Dolls, the play: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and the opera: Tristan & Isolde. I went to a handful of concerts: Weird Al, 2Cellos, Hans Zimmer, Ellie Goulding & John Newman, Mika, and Close Talker. I went to eight countries other than England and Canada: Morocco, Scotland, Austria, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, and Spain. And I have plenty of things that I can now cross off my bucket list (not that I have a bucket list.. but maybe I should start one!) – I did the Colour Run, stepped over the Greenwich Prime Meridian, went to the Forbidden Nights show, toured Cadbury World, went to Shakespeare’s birthplace Stratford-upon-Avon, explored the Heineken brewery, and the Steigl brewery, AND the De Halve Maan brewery, I donated my hair!, went on the Sound of Music tour, attended the Chocolate show and the Coffee Festival, watched TWO Rugby World Cup games!, rode a camel, climbed a windmill, made it on a website as a ‘model’ (woot woot!), cruised Loch Ness, visited Mozart’s birthplace, went to Africa!, enjoyed a flamenco show, went to the oldest zoo in Europe, cruised down the Thames, met Rebel Wilson, and drove across western Canada. And that’s all I can think of, but it’s already quite a list! When I compare this life to what I think my life would have been like if I stayed in Canada, I can only think that I’ve done everything right, and I plan to continue taking opportunities as they come my way. I just love life! And all of these things completely overpower any lows that I may feel at different points of the year. Being a teacher is not what defines me or my year. When I look back on the past year, the last thing that comes to mind is my crappy teaching experience, or my crappy landlord experience, or the transitions to living in London. These are all memories that I’ve pushed far, far back into my mind and I’ve been able to recharge in Canada and start this year with a new frame of mind.
When I came back from Canada, I arrived at my flat at about 2pm, which was 7am Saskatoon time. I was SO exhausted, and decided I could take a nap for JUST a half hour. I set an alarm and passed right out. Well, I must have kept pressing the snooze button to the point where my phone stopped ringing and I woke up hearing voices outside of my room. I legitimately thought that it was the next morning but upon checking my phone, it was about 7:30pm. I was extremely thankful that my flatmates ended up waking me up at that point because I likely would have ended up sleeping until 3 or 4 in the morning. I stayed up until midnight that night and decided not to set an alarm since I already had 5.5 hours of sleep, and I was hoping I could at least sleep until 6am. Bad idea.. I ended up waking up at 2pm the next day – 14 hours of sleep later, plus the 5.5 I had before! I nearly spent a full day sleeping. The worst part is I COULD have kept sleeping as I was still so exhausted, but I made myself get up. I went out to get much-needed groceries, and spent the rest of the evening in. The next day, I was going to FriendsFest with Kim. We decided to go right when it opened, meaning I’d have to get up at about 8am the next morning. Due to the fact that I had SO much sleep the night before, I couldn’t sleep at all that night! I tried

In Monica and Rachel’s Kitchen

everything and ended up just getting mad at myself when it was 5am and I was still wide awake. Needless to say, I wasn’t the most energetic person on Sunday. At FriendsFest, they had most of the sets from the TV show ‘Friends,’ including Monica and Rachel’s apartment, Coffee Perks, Chandler and Joey’s apartment, the wedding chapel that Ross and Rachel got married in, and the diner that Monica worked in. It was pretty cool to see everything, and they had a huge screen playing clips from Friends all day long!

The next day was the first day of school so I had to get into my usual routine of getting up, being ready by 7, and waiting for a phonecall. I didn’t get work on Monday, so I went back to bed for a couple hours, but then kept snoozing my alarm until it stopped. So again, I couldn’t get to sleep that night and I was wide awake 4am on Tuesday morning. I didn’t get work on Tuesday either, but I also didn’t let myself nap because I was scared that I was getting into a bad habit. However, on Wednesday, I couldn’t even get up that morning, even though I went to bed at 11pm the night before. I decided to not call in to work, and went back to bed and slept until 1:30 – another 14 hours of sleep. This pattern continued until the weekend, until I finally got back into the hang of things (thank goodness!). It was definitely my worst jetlag yet. I ended up getting a call on Thursday night that I had work for Friday (yay!), and then when I was halfway there, my agent called and said the school had cancelled… So no work that week! I wasn’t really expecting any, and I still had enough in my bank account to last me for a couple more weeks. That Saturday night, I went to the Billy Joel concert! This was actually what made me decide that I’d be coming back to London

Billy!

for another year. I booked the ticket back in December, and I remember thinking that if I got the ticket, it would mean I’d definitely have to come back. It seemed like such a big decision at the time, but now I see it as a no-brainer. Billy Joel was great! He was actually really funny, and very personable. I got quite emotional being able to see him play. The one thing that didn’t work out in my favour was that I decided I wanted to buy a t-shirt but all of the debit machines were down so I went to ask where the atm was, and the guy said they didn’t have any. What kind of arena doesn’t have an atm machine?! So I didn’t get a Billy Joel shirt 😦

The next week, I got work on Monday at an absolutely amazing school – probably the best school I’ve been to so far! That evening, I met up for drinks and dinner with our family-friend Karen, who was in London to see her boyfriend (who’s British) and meet his family and friends. Therefore, I got to meet a lot of his friends as well! The night was a lot of fun! We had drinks at a pub and then went to a fancy restaurant at the OXO tower, and it had a beautiful view of the river. It was a two-course meal, so I got rabbit as an appetizer, and had salmon for my main dish. It was delicious! We were there for quite awhile and I started losing energy at about 11:30, when I realized I still had to get up at 6 the next morning and the last train was due in about a half hour. We asked for the bill and I was shocked when I saw that it was about 780 pounds! As they do in Britain, we split the bill evenly 12 ways, but even that amount was more than a week’s worth of groceries, and I hadn’t gotten paid in two and a half months. I was having a silent panic attack, trying to figure out if I could go without food for the next couple of weeks when Brian generously (and thankfully!) offered to pay for my portion. I got back home at about 1 and was able to have about 4.5 to 5 hours of sleep – nothing that I wasn’t

Kyoto Garden

used to after my week of jet lag! I didn’t get work for the next three days, so I decided to start leaving the house since I had spent the whole week before in bed. I explored the Kyoto garden on Tuesday, which was small but absolutely gorgeous and then I went and checked out Little Venice on Wednesday. That evening, I went to a science talk at a pub – the event was called ‘Scibar,’ and it was called “Why do we die?” The talk was extremely interesting, and he mentioned that our bodies get about 1000 cancer cells per day, and it’s our body’s job to fight them – some people’s bodies doing a better job than others’. He also said that chances of dying increase when an organism enters its reproductive stage or becomes sexually active, because of complications during pregnancy, during childbirth, and the energy that’s used (and lost) when competing for a mate. Therefore, menopause is nature’s way of prolonging life for women since those chances of dying increase even more with age, so stopping a woman’s ability to get pregnant is nature’s way of helping her live longer. And humans are apparently 1 of 2 species who have menopause. So pretty cool! Going to the Scibar talk was so invigorating, and I realized how much I’ve missed learning! On Friday, I got another day of work (yay, 2 days this week!) at another good school.

The next week, I got another two days of work – on Monday and Wednesday. By that point, I was starting to freak out since rent would be due the following week. When I left for

Little Venice

Canada, I set aside money for August and September rent, not even thinking that I’d need October rent because I assumed I’d be working in September. However, with only four days of work in three weeks, I wasn’t even sure if I’d make it. Luckily, I did but I went down to a measly 19 pounds in my bank account. That Monday night, I met up with Karen and Brian again before they went back to Canada the next day. We went to a nice Italian restaurant and had a good visit before having to say our final goodbyes. On Wednesday night, I decided to start up my gym membership again because I was constantly feeling tired and sedentary, and I needed something to get me going again. That Friday night, I went to Ricky Martin with Kim! We had dinner and drinks first, and then made our way to the concert. While it was nice seeing Ricky, we only knew about three songs and it seemed like the entire audience was from Argentina and Venezuela (actually though, Ricky asked where everyone was from), so everyone was singing along to all of the Spanish songs except for us. It was still a good concert though! The next day, I went to

Ricky!

New Scientist Live, which was basically an exhibition of a bunch of science stuff, with lots of talks during the day. I just decided to go to all of the talks, so I went to one about human impact on global warming, gene editing, helping the immune system beat cancer, what makes us moral, diy dna, and antibiotics. They were really interesting, but I started to tire towards the end and that’s when I realized (ironically at the talk about antibiotics) that I was getting sick. I went to Trafalgar Square to check out Malaysia Night, but I just ended up having dinner there before heading home to rest.

The next week, my contract finally started (so I was guaranteed pay, even if they didn’t find me work), and magically, I had a full week of work at the same school. It’s a school I’ve worked at before that I don’t like because all of the students seem really preppy and have a “better than thou” attitude, so everything’s always a fight. My agent told me that the head of science would be coming in to observe one of my lessons, which I thought was a little weird since I was only staying there for the week. I arrived at the school and no one knew what I was supposed to be doing because the head of science was running late and the assistant head wasn’t in that day, so the science technician gave me a list of classes to teach. I was in the same classroom the entire day so I taught period 1, and then had period 2 off. I decided to just stay in the classroom so that if anyone needed me, I’d be easy to find. However, once period 3 started, the head of science came in with another supply teacher and said that she was teaching there. I was so confused and asked what I was supposed to do, and he said I should have observed another lesson during period 2 so I could teach that same lesson during the present period, and didn’t anyone tell me? Nope, I was completely unaware that was supposed to happen. Anyway, I went into the other classroom but the other teacher took over teaching (which I was completely fine with since I had absolutely no idea what they were doing), and after about ten minutes, the head of science asked to talk to me in the hall and apologized for wasting my time but he didn’t think it was worth observing me during this lesson. I, of course, didn’t really care since it’s not like I was hoping to get a job there or anything. But then, he said that I could spend the rest of the period planning a lesson for the last period of the day, on a topic that I knew nothing about because we’ve never learnt it in Canada. Anyway, I planned the lesson, taught it, and after school, the head of science said that he’d really like to hire me to take over the maternity leave position. Um… what? I explained that I wasn’t looking for a short- or long-term position, and he said he understood – he has friends from abroad and he knows that teaching isn’t our first priority when living abroad, but the position would only be the rest of September, October, and November. He asked if I’d at least stay until the end of the week, which I said of course since I had already agreed to it, and he said to let him know what I thought at the end of the week. I was ticked off with my agent for putting me in such an awkward position, since I’ve been clear from the beginning that I only want to do day-to-day supply, and I wasn’t looking for any short-term positions. Anyway, on Tuesday, I did a normal day of supply teaching and then on Wednesday and Thursday, all they wanted me to do was shadow the teacher that I’d be taking over – basically sit in the classroom and help out if necessary. The days were so much longer since I was essentially doing nothing, and watching how the students treated this teacher – a guy who’s been teaching for 7 years – I knew the students would walk all over me. There were so many kids who put up a fight for no reason at all – one student who refused to sit down at the beginning of class, boys who wouldn’t do any work and would just talk back to the teacher the whole time, and then the one that really got me – one boy who came into class after ten minutes, walked into class while “talking on the phone,” which just ended up being an empty phone case. The teacher told him to leave the room and go straight to head of science and the kid was like, “But it’s not even a real phone! No, I’m not going.” And finally, I stepped in, “No, you’re deliberately trying to make him mad. You’re carrying around an empty cell phone case, and for what reason? To get a reaction out of him.” The teacher asked me to escort the student to head of science and the student left while yelling, “I don’t even care! You’re a lousy teacher! You’re done at the end of the week anyway, she’s our new teacher now.” And I kindly explained on the way to the other classroom that, “Actually, you’ve done a good job of convincing me that I wouldn’t want to accept a job here. So congratulations!” I wrote my agent after school that day that I wouldn’t be working there for longer than one week and that he should let the school know so that they can look for someone who’s actually interested in the job. I felt guilty because I was wasting the school’s time (and money), and all I was doing was sitting in classrooms, watching and doing nothing. My agent basically told me to keep my mouth shut until the end of the week, because he didn’t want me to let on that I wasn’t interested. However, towards the end of the next day, I couldn’t take it anymore. The science department asked me to stay after school for their weekly meeting so I could be prepared for the following weeks, and then I kept being asked what I was going to be teaching next week and what labs I’d need prepared. Finally, I pulled the head of science aside and told him that I wasn’t going to be staying longer than a week. “Like this week or next week?” “I want Friday to be my last day.” “Like this Friday, or next Friday?” Seriously?! “This Friday.” The Head of Science looked genuinely surprised and disappointed, and I felt so bad and hated my agent for putting me into that situation in the first place. Obviously he was keeping information from both of us and telling each of us what we both wanted to hear, and I wasn’t impressed at all. Anyway, the Friday was a normal day of supply and it made me SO glad that I didn’t agree to anymore time. One of the year 10’s came into the classroom and the first thing he did was turned on the sink on full blast and put his hand under the tap so that the water sprayed everywhere. I immediately told him to get out and go to head of science. The kids were doing a practical that involved elastic bands, so you can imagine how that turned out. They didn’t do any work, basically played with the elastic bands the whole time, kept leaving the classroom without permission, and were overall just rude. And then they blamed me because they didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing for the last half hour… I talked to the class afterwards and told them how rude they had been and that I had been asked to stay here and take over a position, and that any teacher who had to deal with their behaviour that day would be CRAZY to agree to deal with it again. “Wait, so you were going to be our teacher…?” “It was a possibility, yes. I wasn’t ‘just a supply teacher..’ You have to think about the first impressions you’re making, because if you keep acting like this to supply teachers, then that’s all you’re ever going to have.” I saw the thoughts going through their heads and the recognition of how they had made a mistake, but hopefully they’ll know to act better for next time. After school, my agent texted me and said, “The school doesn’t have anyone else for science at the minute. Is there any chance you could do 1 more week? I can pay you 20 pounds more each day if you could do it, it would be amazing.” I had no problem replying, “Especially after today, my answer is absolutely not. I don’t think there’s any amount of money you could pay me to go back. Sorry, I just want to go back to day-to-day.” And that’s what he gave me… for a week anyway. That weekend, I got to meet up with our family friend, Dave, who I’ve seen four times now since I’ve moved to London. We also met up with his son’s friend, who lives in London now, and who I haven’t seen since I was 15. We went to a great steak restaurant, and then went out for a few drinks afterwards; it was nice seeing some familiar faces again!
The next week, I was doing general cover the whole week. Twice, I went to one of the boys schools that I used to always work at (Monday and Wednesday). On Tuesday, I worked at a girls school and then my agent had set me up for an interview at another girls school later that afternoon. I should have made it to my interview with over an hour to spare, but at the end of the school day, all of the girls were asked to go to their homerooms and wait there until further instruction. Someone was guarding the door to leave the school and when I asked what was going on, they informed me that the station across the street (which is also a bus terminal and a mall) had received a suspicious package and the entire area was evacuated. I went outside and there was a big crowd of people surrounding yellow security tape. The police had closed off all of the roads, and a voice went on overhead, “This is an evacuation; everyone is to leave the premises immediately,” and went on repeat over and over again. People weren’t even allowed to leave their office buildings! I stood there with the crowd for a bit, wondering what I was going to do and called my agent to let him know that things weren’t going to go smoothly. The police did a controlled explosion and opened the roads again after about 10-15 minutes and everyone rushed to get to the underground, but the mall still wasn’t open. I decided to walk to the next station (about 20 minutes away) and catch the underground over there. On my way there, I figured that all of the tubes would be held up anyway, so maybe it would be best for me to take the bus. I hopped on one, but traffic was so horrible. I got off after about 45 minutes, running to the closest tube station and I ended up making it to the school five minutes late for my interview. This school wanted me for an eight day supply (Monday to Thursday for two weeks) but wanted to interview me first, which I thought was kind of weird. The interview was with the Deputy Head and the Head of Science, and they asked me so many questions, from what has went wrong in one of my lessons, to what experiments I would do for certain subjects. I wasn’t too concerned about it because it’s not like I was looking for a short- or long-term position anyway, so I may have answered the questions a little TOO honestly – about London school systems, respect levels of London kids, etc. and they assured me that I wouldn’t have to spend any time dealing with behaviour management. Yeah, I’ve heard that one before… I was about to leave when someone came and said that the Headmaster would like to speak with me. I went to see her in her huge office and got to sit on one of the couches in the sitting area of her office. She was one of those typical British women that you see on TV, who are so prim and proper, with the accent and the smile that looks like it hurts. I didn’t actually know women like that existed! Anyway, I was also honest with her about the reason why I’ve chosen not to do long-term teaching (because I’m not going to put in time and effort to do lesson planning if it goes unappreciated, and so far I haven’t found a school that I would feel respected at). I clearly did these interviews not trying to impress anyone, and I was still somewhat upset with my agent for putting me in another situation like this. I finished talking with her and then I went to leave, and the secretary was just like, “Oh, just wait one minute!” She turned around and grabbed an envelope, “Here’s the money for your transportation here and back home.” Wow! That’s never happened before.. I got a call from my agent about an hour later, saying that the school would like to have me for the 8 days, as well as have me on Thursday of that week so I could get acquainted with everything. I agreed to it and instantly after, I regretted it and started having mini panic attacks about how I had just signed my life away. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not.. I know, so dramatic, but obviously I have major problems committing to things. I went on Thursday and watched one class, and then spent the rest of the day talking to the head of science, talking to the teacher I’d be taking over for (who was going on jury duty), talking to people about safeguarding and being a homeroom teacher, and setting up an account with the IT guys. I had to fill out a bunch of forms and one of the blanks I had to fill in stated: ‘Peripatetic teacher for:’ Well, I had to look THAT one up! This school meant business.. AND when one of the teachers said, “Are you ready for lunch?”, I said yes and went to grab my bag, but she said, “Come on then!”, and took me down to the cafeteria, where I got free lunch(!) that day and for the two weeks that I was there. This school was spoiling me and I had only been there for one day. I went back to a pretty bad school on Friday, so it made the weekend worth it. That week was also quite busy in terms of social events! On Monday, I went to a BBC Radio show with my flatmate, and it was done by Lemn Sissay, who was apparently the official poet of the 2012 Olympics (Don’t worry, I didn’t know that was a thing either..). He talked about how so many characters in books and movies are missing one or both of their parents (Katniss from Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Superman, etc.) and compared it to the realities of living in foster care (he grew up in the foster system). It was a really interesting talk, and also very enlightening. That Thursday, I went to Book of Mormon with Becky and her friend, which was amazing! The cast that I saw was great and while there were parts that took the jokes a BIT too far, all-in-all it was very entertaining. On Saturday, I went to a talk called, “Introversion Explained,” and it talked about how everyone has both introvert and extrovert qualities, but everyone favours being one over the other. I learned that introverts prefer to communicate in writing, which probably shouldn’t surprise me, and they digest information thoroughly, stay on task longer, give up less easily, and they’re more accurate. On Sunday, I prepared for the following week since I’d be teaching a bunch of stuff that I wasn’t too familiar with (at the school, I had taken on a Chemistry position but some of it was the upper level stuff that I hadn’t seen in about four years). The first week was okay, but the days were a lot longer than I was used to and the travel to get to and from the school sucked. I had to leave my house by 7 and sometimes, I would hardly make it for 8:30. The Heads weren’t lying though; the behaviour was amazing and I only had to tell one student to stop talking! The week seemed extremely long so on Friday, I was very thankful when I was asked to go to a boys school closeby. The day finished 50 minutes earlier than the other school, and I was home by the time I would have left the other school. That Thursday, I went to the Empire of the Sun concert,

Empire of the Sun

which wasn’t really what I was expecting. I had listened to all of their music while I was living in France and all of the reviews said that seeing them in concert was awesome, so I figured I should go. However, the style was some kind of random, techno, electric, odd performance – I don’t even know how to describe it but it went so over the top that many times, I was just like WTF. As the guy standing in front of me yelled over to his friend, “This is f***ing weird!” And I couldn’t agree more. It was still nice to be there though, and it was great to listen to the songs that I knew! On Saturday, I went to The Chocolate Show and I got to try all of the chocolate that I wanted before I went to Kim’s for a Thanksgiving dinner. There were 11 of us there, and it was complete with all of the staples – turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, broccoli salad, pumpkin pie… it was delicious! On Sunday, I spent most of the day carving my pumpkin.

The next week, I was at the same school from Monday to Thursday. This was the last week before my holidays so I was glad to have those days booked so I didn’t have to worry about finding work. That week was a lot more enjoyable and seemed to go by a lot faster for some reason.. maybe because the girls were all writing tests most

Thanksgiving dinner

of the week. I was just shocked as to how the girls actually WANTED to learn, and they sped through all of the work like crazy! I wasn’t expecting it so oftentimes, I had to come up with more stuff for the girls to do at the top of my head. That week, my agent called about another long-term position at a different girls school (which I actually worked at today), and I declined. I was really starting to get annoyed because it was the third time he had tried to set me up with a long-term position in three weeks, and that was one of the main reasons why I switched agencies last year. He spent about ten minutes trying to convince why I’d want a long-term position – how I’d have references when I’m looking for jobs in Canada, that when I go back to Canada, I won’t get hired as easily just having “Supply” on my resume, blablabla. That made me extremely mad and I almost lost it, wanting to say, “How do you know what I want? Who says I’m even going to teach back in Canada?” But I figured I should just keep that to myself. I decided to just go with, “I just want to do day-to-day supply.” “But it would look so good on a resume..” “I’m not here for the experience, I’m here for the opportunities that I can have while being here.” “But the references…” “Again, I’m not here for the experience.” “But you did that last year.” “Yeah… and I want to do it again this year.” I think he finally got the point. On Wednesday evening, I went to another BBC Radio show called The Kitchen Cabinet, where a panel focuses on certain foods – this show was about custard, port wine, and pumpkins. I even got a Portuguese egg tart, and got a free glass of wine to go with it! When I went to the gym one evening, I decided to make a stop at the grocery store on the way home. I was in such a rush, I threw my debit card in my pocket after purchasing my stuff and then ran for the train, just as it started to pour. I made it to the train station and as I was running to the platform, something in my head told me to check my pockets to make sure I had everything. I could feel my Oyster card, but I couldn’t find my debit. I began to panic and ran to an empty chair where I could unload my backpack and check the pockets and then check my jacket once more. It was gone. I went into freakout mode and decided to retrace my steps and walk back to the grocery store with my groceries in the rain. It was dark out by that point so I looked as best I could, and I got all the way to the door but didn’t find it. I started kicking myself, as I couldn’t afford to go without money while waiting for a new card to come in the mail. All I could think about was how someone else was probably happily using my card, tapping every purchase they could. Feeling defeated, I slowly started to walk back to the train station. As I was walking, something shiny caught my eye, and I saw a silver rectangle to the side, under the bike rack. Hopeful, I ran to it and flipped it over to see my name on the front of the card! I couldn’t believe my luck! The chances of finding a card on a sidewalk in one of the busiest places in London is almost slim to none. Someone must have accidentally kicked or biked it to the side, out of sight. It got completely worn out, the letters on it are totally squished down and the ends of it are frayed, but it still works!

Today, I wasn’t too sure if I would get work or not since it was the last day before the holidays. However, I ended up getting a call around 8 asking me to go to a girls school, which was actually the very first school I ever went to in London. Well, today was the longest day ever and I was losing my mind with the students. I know it was the day before holidays, but none of the students wanted to do anything and then instead of just sitting and talking, they kept fooling around and being extremely disruptive and loud. The worst part was the end of the day, when I had a class of 45 year 12 students. Normally year 12s are my favourite, but these ones were something else… I ended up writing an email to the headmaster about the behaviour. On the plus side of today, one year 9 student just out of the blue was like, “Miss, I really like your nose.” “What, really? I don’t think anyone’s ever said that to me before…” “Well, it’s a nice nose..” “Well thank you.. you know, I was teased during my whole childhood about my nose and I’ve always been really self-conscious about it, even to this day.” “What?! Why would people tease you about your nose?” “I don’t know, but it’s always been something that’s bothered me.” “Well, I would LOVE your nose; I don’t like my nose!” It’s funny how those insecurities can stay with you for the rest of your life, and how a simple compliment that would seem so meaningless can actually make your day. Anyway, tomorrow I’m on my way to Romania for the week so that should be fun! I still need to pack and it’s almost my bedtime.. I hope everyone enjoys the last of their October! Love always
Walking on a Dream – Empire of the Sun

Home Again (Saskatoon, La Ronge, and our Roadtrip to Vancouver)

Well, I’ve been back in London for over a month now, and it’s went by so fast! But this post isn’t about my time back in London… right now, I’m going to share about my time back in Canada. My trip back to Canada was quite long.. my flight didn’t leave until 9:20 that morning, but I still had to get to the airport by 6:45. I had booked a bus ticket to the airport, but I still had to get to the bus stop with my two suitcases so I decided to take an Uber for the first time ever. It was actually quite simple! I got up around 4:30 and called an Uber at 5, which got me to the bus stop with enough time to catch my bus at 5:30. However, once I got there, it said that because of road construction, the bus stop would be cancelled all day. Of course something like this would happen on my way home – does it EVER go smoothly?! I tried calling the number that was listed, which was out of service and then I started freaking out along with the other people who showed up at the stop. Luckily, a bus ended up coming! The bus driver said that it didn’t come into effect until 6am (even though the sign didn’t state that), so we lucked out! I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, and I bought the newest Harry Potter book that was just issued at midnight. The first part of my flight was to St. John’s, Newfoundland. I then had two hours to find my luggage, take it through customs, and get food before boarding the next plane. There were two things that completely shocked me upon arriving in the Newfoundland airport. The first thing was that the people were a lot bigger – not huge, but a noticeable amount that I hadn’t been used to seeing in Europe. The second thing was how much water was in the toilets. This took about two weeks for me to get used to, and there were quite a few times when I’d start freaking out because I thought the toilet was going to overflow when I flushed it. Coming from Europe, where there’s about half a cup to a cup of water in a toilet (next to nothing), I was shocked when I saw the toilet bowl half full in Canada! Anyway, I got on my next flight, which was to Toronto but it ended up being a four hour flight. This was because there was a stop in Halifax, where I had to sit and wait for everyone to get off the plane and for everyone else to get on. I had started and finished my Harry Potter book during this flight.. I had another two hour layover in Toronto, and then my final part was the trip to Saskatoon. I got there at 8pm (3am London time), where my sister and Stephanie were there to greet me at the airport (my parents were at the cabin, waiting), and the three of us went back to the house to visit and unpack my stuff. By that time, I had hardly eaten because I was shocked at the $8-13 sandwiches

Beef tartare!

at the airpot and refused to buy one. I had the shakes and was extremely jetlagged, but I somehow managed to stay up until at least midnight. The next day, my sister and I packed up my car and headed to La Ronge! We had a nice family week there, where we went on a family boat day (dog and cat included), did some puzzling, hung out by the fire, and just had a relaxing time. It was quite easy for me to feel at home again, and it felt like I had only been gone for a month or so, not a whole year! It was also a great way for me to get over my jetlag, but it took me at least a week to finally be able to sleep through the entire night. Once the weekend came, I was “allowed” to go into town to see my friends (the week was reserved for family time), and do my rounds at the Co-op. Not much had changed, except for all of the kids who seemed to have changed so much after a year!

I headed back to Saskatoon on Sunday evening, and then my mom, Lauren and I started our road trip on Monday morning. We stopped to visit my Grandma for an hour or so, and things had changed quite a bit in that area as well. During my year away, she had been moved to a care home and her memory has slowly been going, so she didn’t actually know who I was when I came in. My mom had to introduce me to her, reminding her of who I was. It was quite difficult to see how much she had changed since the last time I saw her, but it was nice to see her again. We then decided to take the long way to Calgary, heading down to Swift Current and stopping to visit my Godparents in Medicine Hat. We arrived in Calgary later that night, just in time to have dinner with our family friends, the Hounjets and Randles. On Tuesday, Robyn, Lauren and I did a bit of wandering around and went out for lunch. We went to a fancy French bistro, where we decided to order three dishes and split them. Robyn order the beef tartare, which Lauren and I were both quite hesitant about, as I don’t think I’ve ever eaten raw red meat in my life, but it actually ended up being delicious! We did a bit of shopping, and later that evening we had a nice dinner, complete with boardgames and lots of visiting. 
Windermere Lake
We left for Windermere on Wednesday morning, stopping for lunch in Banff. We settled for McDonald’s after seeing how expensive the Banff restaurants were, and then checked out a few of the shops while we were there. We got to Windermere that afternoon, and stayed at my Auntie Joyce and Uncle David’s cabin. The next day, we spent a good amount of time boating on the lake. It was so weird to me – to be able to have mountains on both sides of you when boating through the lake, but it was so nice and relaxing! This is where I finally was able to have a good night’s sleep after being jet lagged all week – it was amazing! We went out to a delicious restaurant for pizza that evening, and ended the night with a campfire.
On Friday morning, we made the long trek to Kelowna. We stayed with my cousins and their kids, and my Auntie Rose and Uncle Bob were also in town to visit! We had an amazing Ukrainian dinner that evening (which I would never turn away, with the lack of Ukrainian food in London!), which was so good! The next day, we spent the afternoon at the beach, and we also got to see where my aunt and uncle would be moving. It was a great visit! That evening, we spent hours on the deck watching the lightning storm, and stargazing.
Kelowna
On Sunday morning, we headed to Vancouver. The traffic was insane upon our arrival, and we ended up taking about 1.5 to 2 hours just to get IN to Vancouver, as the highway was backed up. We finally got through and stopped at the ferry terminal to pick up my cousin, Nikayla, who came to meet us from Victoria. Lucky for us, some family friends had a 2-bedroom apartment available that was on UBC campus. However, it was completely empty. And by completely, I mean no beds, no couch, no dishes, etc. We ended up “camping” on the bedroom floors, which was an experience in itself. That evening, we did a shopping trip to get our necessities and we went out for a nice dinner on campus. The next day, we went to Granville Island and I met up with my friend, Jeff (who I met at Bamfield), for lunch. Later that afternoon, we went to Lynn Canyon Park and did a bit of hiking before heading back to the apartment and having a sushi picnic on the living room floor. We also met up with Curtis and his girlfriend for a visit that night. 
Lynn Canyon Park
On Tuesday morning, we started our long trek home. We dropped Nikayla back off at the ferry terminal, made a stop in Abbotsford to visit some family friends, and this time headed north towards Jasper. We didn’t have a plan of where we would stop that evening, and decided to keep driving until my dad (who was back in Saskatoon on his iPad) found us a room in Clearwater. This was the first evening that my mom, sister and I had to ourselves, and it was nice to finally get to spend some time just with each other. We went to an AMAZING restaurant called Hop “N” Hog, where we sat outside and had a meat platter and a vegetable platter of delicious barbecued food. We left the next morning and made it to Edmonton that night, and then did the last part of the trip back to Saskatoon on Thursday. I ended up putting 7000km on my car during my month back in Canada, putting a year’s worth of driving in 30 days! 
That evening, I met up with my good friend Crystal for dinner at Spicy Garden and had a nice visit catching up. Friday was my first full day back in Saskatoon (even though I had already been in Canada for 18 days), and if I’m completely honest, it was the first time I felt truly lonely. Maybe it was the fact that the last two and half weeks were so filled up, I didn’t think about it before, or maybe that’s just how I actually felt in my hometown, but I sat there thinking about how a year had went by and everyone had continued on with their lives for the past year without me, so was there even any place for me anymore? Where did I still belong? DID I still belong? And I was bored! I didn’t feel like I could just find something cool to do, like it was so easily done in London. I felt truly lost. I didn’t have too much time to dwell on it because that afternoon, I spent quite a bit of time with family. 
The next day, I met up with most of my high school friends at Stephanie’s

Mount Robson

house for a barbecue. It was nice seeing and catching up with everyone, and again, it didn’t feel like I had been gone for a whole year. After dinner, we got a ride to Confederation Mall and started our Folkfesting experience. We went to the German pavilion for a while, and then made our way to Prairieland Park, where we stayed for the rest of the night. People kept wandering off or going home throughout the night, which was really tough on me because I knew that I likely wouldn’t be seeing them again before I headed back to London, and I didn’t get to say bye to any of them. However, there were seven of us left at the end of the night and we decided to take the bus to the north end and then go to Original Joe’s. We caught the bus at about 11:45pm and then about ten minutes later, the bus randomly stopped and bus driver said that another bus was coming, and it would be going directly downtown. Therefore, half of the people on the bus got off (including us) and we waited for the next bus. And waited… And waited… After another ten minutes of it not coming, everyone climbed back onto the other bus (which hadn’t left), and we started the long journey back downtown, through all of the other neighbourhoods. By the time we finally got downtown, we had JUST missed the last bus to take us to the northend and we were therefore stranded at the bus mall. I was livid. I had gotten used to 24-hour bus services, and I couldn’t believe that we didn’t have a way home at 12:30 in the morning. My drunken self promised my friends that I would be writing a letter to the city to complain (which seems to be what I do best). Luckily, Steph got a hold of her mom to pick up the people who lived on the west side and I was able to wake up my sister to pick up the northend people. Anyway, I DID end up writing a letter when I returned back to London, which I’ll explain more of at the end of my post.

The next day (Sunday), my loneliness came back again. That afternoon, I went to my Auntie Rose and Uncle Bob’s to visit with them and my cousins, and then they invited me for dinner. It was a really great visit, and time seemed to fly by, as the conversations kept

going and going. I left at 9pm after realizing the time, and I met up with my friend Alyssa to have a visit over coffee. It’s those short visits with friends and family that really make me feel whole and complete again 🙂 On Monday, I met up with Steph and Laura for all-you-can-eat sushi lunch before I made the trip back to La Ronge. That week, I usually spent the day with family and then went into town for the evening. On Wednesday, Sherri had a birthday party for Nevaidah, who turned four this year! I remember hating when people would see me as a kid and exclaim how fast I was growing up, and now I’ve realized that I’ve become one of those people. It blows my mind that Nevaidah was born four years ago, back when I was doing my Eurotrip in Italy. It was a great week, being able to spend time with friends and see how much the kids had changed! Zipper and I even got a nice afternoon to relax on the lake!

I drove back to Saskatoon on Sunday night and then on Monday, my mom, Lauren and I did a day trip to Rosetown. We spent the afternoon with my grandma, who was much better that day! We also went to visit my aunt and uncle working on the farm, and then went for dinner at my cousin’s. That evening, we made a couple more stops visiting cousins before heading back home. It was a busy day, but it was so nice to see everyone before I left! On Tuesday, I met with Jono and his family for lunch, and I got to see how much his little one grew in the past year! Then on Wednesday, I met up with the Herbel’s for lunch, and had an awesome visit with them as well! That evening, I did all of my packing and had a visit from

Land of the Living Skies 🙂

Steph and Bobby. Then, at 3:30 in the morning, I had to get up in order to catch my 5:30 flight back to London. The trip back was much like the trip there, except I had longer layovers. I had a six-hour layover in Toronto, and then a two-hour layover in St. John’s, and I made it back to London at 8am (1am Saskatoon time). The line to get through passport control was absolutely ridiculous, and I ended up having to wait 1.5-2 hours to finally get through. I then caught the bus back, and I think I arrived back at my flat at around 2pm (7am Saskatoon time), and I was absolutely exhausted! But I suppose I’ll save all that for another blog, as this is getting quite long and I still have to write about my government letters!

I ended up sending the letters during my second week back in London. It somewhat pained me to have to address the letters to “His Worship Don Atchison” and “The Honourable Brad Wall,” but I did what had to be done for the possibility of my letters being read. I’ve added a copy of my letter below:
To The Honourable Brad Wall,
 
Please understand that I have also sent a letter to His Worship Donald Atchison, but as this is also a Saskatchewan issue, I would like to bring this to your attention as well.
 
I’m a 26-year-old Canadian woman and I’ve spent most of my life living in Saskatchewan, but I have currently been living in London, England for the past year. I came back for a month this August to visit family and friends, and I was shocked and annoyed when the only night that I went out in Saskatoon, my friends and I were stranded downtown with no way of getting home. My friends and I went folkfesting on the Saturday night and left Prairieland Park at about ten to midnight. We all got on the bus and the bus drove for awhile and then the bus driver said that if anyone wanted to go straight downtown, there’s another bus coming in a minute. Half the people got off the bus and we must have waited for at least ten minutes, but no bus came. Luckily, the other bus hadn’t left so we all got on and took the long trip back to downtown. By the time we finally got downtown, the only buses there said “not in service,” and we found out that there were no more buses going to the north end of the city. Now, I understand that I’m coming from a large city where the population is far greater than Saskatoon’s population, but even before I moved to London, I had a major problem with the public transportation that was offered to Saskatoon citizens. I believe that it’s the city’s responsibility to get everyone home in a safe manner, ESPECIALLY when the city is putting on a major event. Saskatoon doesn’t have a nightbus, and it doesn’t have Uber. I understand that we can’t get Uber, but a taxi fare is way too expensive for the average person to pay for. According to taxifarefinder.com, a taxi ride for me to get from downtown to my house would cost $25, while a taxi ride from Prairieland Park to my house would cost $36. That’s absolutely ridiculous when minimum wage in Saskatchewan is $10.50. I doubt the average person is working 2.5 to 3.5 hours (aka over one quarter of a workday) thinking that this amount is going towards their ride home when they go out that weekend. I’ve never spent money on a taxi to go home after a night out, nor do I ever plan to. I would rather walk an hour to get home than spend money on a taxi, but even that wouldn’t secure my safety when there might be drunk drivers out on the road. I have to admit (and I’m sure I’m not the only person) that I’m scared to go out driving or walking on crazy nights, such as Folkfest weekend or New Year’s Eve, because I know that there are drunk drivers out there, and I don’t want to risk getting in an accident. And I believe that the lack of public transportation that’s offered is directly related to the amount of people driving under the influence. Many people would rather drive under the influence than pay for a taxi, and therefore they put their life and many other peoples’ lives in danger.
 
I remember watching those commercials as a child – those ones that basically taught me that having one or two drinks before driving was fine. We’ve all grown up with the idea that as long as we don’t go past that .08 limit, we can drink as much as we want before driving. Some people are so good at convincing themselves and others that they’re sober, and they’ll still get in the vehicle AFTER the .08 limit. Shouldn’t all amounts of alcohol be the limit though? The fact that I’ve grown up and I’ve known as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult that having one or two drinks before driving is “okay” – that’s a problem! I look at that and I think that it’s somewhat messed up that kids grow up with this idea instilled in their brains. There’s something wrong when most likely every Saskatchewan person has heard this at least once: “No, I probably shouldn’t have ANOTHER drink. I’m driving today.” The .08 limit says nothing. I have friends who could have 4 or 5 beer in a row and can still act completely normal, and I have friends who could have half a can of beer and already be tipsy. Does this mean that the .08 limit has only reached the latter friend? Likely not. Impaired driving is still the number one killer on the roads in Saskatchewan, and something has to be done about it. When my sister sent me an article titled, “Sask doesn’t see drunk driving as a problem ‘until someone actually dies,’” I KNEW I had to write this letter. Not only do you have to change the way you’re educating the citizens of this province, but you have to start offering affordable public transportation for everyone so that people aren’t tempted to drink and drive. If you can’t offer 24-hour buses, you should at least be offering bus services from downtown to each area of every major city until an hour after bars close – until 3am. Have a bus go back and forth to Lawson Heights Mall, have a bus go back and forth to Confederation Mall, and so on and so forth. That way, at least people can get closer to home, and THEN they can take a taxi or walk. 
 
I know it’s a long shot to send this letter and hope something will be done about it, but I sincerely hope that you take it into consideration. Families should never be scared to drive around their own city because they’re worried about drunk drivers. This is a serious topic and it’s always been a serious topic, but throughout my first 25 years of living in Saskatoon, I’ve seen nothing done about it. Do something. 
 
Sincerely,
Janelle Achtemichuk
Again, I sent these letters to Don Atchison (and the city council) and Brad Wall. I wasn’t really expecting a reply from either of them, but was hoping they’d at least be read at a council meeting or SOMETHING. I was hoping to get through to them in any way possible. To my surprise, the next day, Brad Wall had posted a lengthy Facebook post about drunk driving, which was also in response to a fatal drunk driving accident that had occurred that day. I have no idea if this had anything to do with my letter, but I was still pleased to see that something was being posted. The link to his post is here: http://regina.ctvnews.ca/we-have-a-serious-problem-premier-brad-wall-on-sask-drinking-and-driving-1.3066856 . Then again to my surprise, I actually received a response from Brad Wall five days later and he CC’d the Minister of Government Relations and the Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance. I’m not going to copy his letter for respect of privacy, but it was short response basically repeating what I had talked about, and agreeing that drunk driving was a problem. The good thing that came out of it was he recommended that I write my City Councillor, who happens to be Randy Donauer. I sent the letter to him as well and nearly two and a half weeks later (long after I had already forgotten about it), I received a really well-written response. He was extremely thankful for my letter and he was glad that I contacted him, and said that the Premier just gave orders to his cabinet to start a war on drinking and driving, and demanded they come up with solutions within the next few months. He also said that they’ve just completed a study of the transit system and have highlighted areas where it needs to improve, such as after-hours services, and service to remote areas. He said they’ll be introducing Bus Rapid Transit lines, with a new transit route system over the coming years. He also said he’d be forwarding my comments to the Manager of Transit, so that he can incorporate them into his consultation and planning. Not surprisingly, I haven’t heard anything from Don Atchison, nor do I expect to. I almost want to print the letter out, send it by post, and say that I’ve received replies from Brad Wall and Randy Donauer, and was just making sure he received my letter (as it doesn’t actually go straight to him, but has to go through other people), but I’m not sure if I should. The good news is that it’s making a difference, and I actually got two replies! I guess it goes to show that a drunken night complaining about it won’t solve the problem, but if you make your voice heard, some people might actually listen! I do have to say that I’m proud, and I’m hoping it will result in something good!

 

My time back in Canada flew by so fast! However, I feel like it was just enough time to enjoy myself, and recharge for another year in London. I do have to say how surprised I was, as so many people that I visited talked about how they’ve read all of my blog posts. And it was always the last people who I’d expect to keep up with my life in London! But it made me feel special, and I love knowing how many people have been devoting their time to read my stories – I appreciate it so much! It’s encouraging me to continue posting blogs, no matter how late they might be.. I hope everyone is enjoying the fall (but mostly winter) weather! Miss you all tons! Love always
 
Home Again – Michael Kiwanuka